LIVE INTRO: Welcome In! However you’re making us part of your day whether it’s Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the iHeartRadio app or even through the Concurrent mobile app or website I’m sure glad you’re joining us.
This is our last show before Thanksgiving so I want to start by taking a moment to, well, give thanks. It’s a little funny because after over 100,000 words written since February when you combine all the writing I do for this, I’m at a loss when it comes to describing my gratitude to you.
The Concurrent is an idea. One that is built on the premise that a more informed county is a better place to live and that there needs to be a free source of critical analysis to this information. I’m not right about everything, and if we disagree on an issue, I don’t want you to feel like you have to hide that or turn away from the Concurrent but rather that the community we’re building here is one of free expression. It’s a cliche to say that this is a most consequential time in our history that requires the best we have to offer, but I truly believe that to be the case.
I was out delivering papers this Sunday and had a chance to catch up with some people in their driveways and I love all the stories they have to tell. I stopped by one house, Rick, and I think he was surprised that it was me delivering the papers.
I don’t think of the Concurrent as a one-man show because I do have a people volunteering their time to help and I’ve never thought of it as mine, it’s our idea to explore together to see if this publication can work, but it has been an exceptionally busy time for me lately which has led me to be just getting by with the bare minimum effort put into it. And yet, you’ve stayed with us through it. Even the comments on Facebook this weekend were excellent as well. What we’re building here is something special, it is all a credit to you, and I couldn’t be more thankful. I want you to remember that, because when I react to the Sunday Chronicle commentary, I’m going to ruin the sentiment of everything I just said. More on that in about seven minutes.
But first, I want to talk about our Sunday’s column because it did get some great feedback from some people on Facebook. Whenever I see a notification that Laura. has commented, I know that I am going to see the world differently after I read her insight, and I love that. It’s always so thoughtful and well written. Likewise whenever I see Brent comment, I know I’m going to learn something new. He even included a citation with his comment which presented new information, and now I’m curious to know more about storm water.
Sunday’s column was about generosity. My claim was that it’s starting to become an expectation rather than a special act someone does to go above and beyond.
I can’t believe I’ve never done this before, but I want to take just a moment to tell you where the motivation to write the column that way came from. A common question I get is people asking if it’s hard to come up with something to write about twice-weekly. Some days, you know, it really is. But there have only been about two of those days in over 80 entries. I know this is such a cliche writer thing to say but most of the time it really is harder to figure out what to leave out then it is coming up with material.
For example, the Inverness Arts Festival was this weekend and I worked lighting and sound at the Valarie Theater for an exhibit that my wife helped put on, Rachel is a local dance studio owner for those who don’t know. The idea behind what they did Saturday wasn’t a performance though, but rather an immersive exhibition, it was interactive, it was experiential, and honestly, it was just really freaking cool.
When we ran through it on Friday night before the festival though, the people participating were all dancers at Rachel’s studio, and the experience didn’t have an effect on me. It felt like a performance, like something I should be watching rather than experiencing.
And then the first group, there were five total groups throughout the day, but this first group of strangers walks in during the festival, and all of the sudden they are sketching these amazing drawings and moving in a way that mirrored the professional dancers, and these are festival goers, amateurs probably half were a fried pretzel deep, some with an impulse buy art print tucked clumsily under their armpits, and they are getting into it. They were joining, not by expectation, but by choice. Not by compulsion but by invitation. And that made all the difference between the dancers from the previous night who were better trained but who had to be there and the complete beginners who wanted to be there.
Does the metaphor between the art installment and the way people react while charitably giving crossover? Maybe. We rely on the Commission’s expertise to tell us what the most pressing need is so we know what is truly worth giving to. This was the point Laura made in her comment and it’s perfectly reasonable.
What we need, though, is more information from the county about how these efforts are going. Nearly every commissioner campaigns on transparency, and that is the role of the media as well, but as we’ll see in the next topic so far that’s easier said than done.
Getting to topic 2 but first,
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This topic is going to be a contradictory call for congratulations to the Chronicle as well as condemnations of the editorial staff, it’s going to be an appreciation of the power of a unified community while also arguing for competing ideas. In other words, this stuff is complicated. Let’s try to sort through it.
Chronicle Executive Editor Jeff Bryan deserves a lot of credit. For just the second time since his columns began, he took a position on an issue in public affairs, and it’s a good one. His point was that trade organizations aren’t power brokers flaunting their influence but rather experts in their respective fields who can provide valuable insight to elected officials. I agree with this and think it needed to be said. I loved everything about this column and I hope to see more like it in the future. Great job Jeff.
Now let’s shift to why the Chronicle editorial staff, including Jeff, has lost their damn minds. In Sunday’s column, I quoted a Chronicle story Mike Bates wrote on November 16th that said quote: the county has received $2.5 million in donations to date, according to county data.
That includes $236,400 from the Citrus County Chronicle’s gofundme.com campaign. It also includes $1.5 million in prior year donations, pledged revenue and eligible impact fees available for the shelter. Added to that is $681,000 from Citrus County residents this year, said County Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach.”
And eligible impact fees? My point in the column was why is something that is compulsory, something that is required for people to pay, included in the amounts that are considered charitable contributions? In fact, my voice of reason commenter Laura even said she thought it was probably a mistake that the reporter made, which I then responded saying was something that I thought was likely the case as well.
And then the Chronicle’s Sunday editorial repeats the claim! That means it went before the entire editorial board and they didn’t find anything strange about it and decided to include it in an argument as to why the animal shelter project is on the right course.
This reminds me of the editorial that led to the Concurrent as an idea almost a year ago. An editorial argued that the United Way would be able to distribute funds for cheaper than what the county was doing at the time, which just wasn’t true, but it sounded nice to include in an argument for a position the editorial staff held. This is essentially the same thing: it’s the failure to critically analyze an extremely troublesome claim that collected impact fees are the equivalent of charitable giving because the claim helps bolster an opinion that the paper holds. That’s the exact opposite of what the role of a newspaper should be.
Here’s why this happens: because positions like this help unite the community. It’s much better for the overall resident morale to say that the project is on the right track and that it’s all because of the selflessness of many who contributed than it is to say that the project is $3-4 million dollars over budget and that these shortfalls are going to have to be covered through half-truths and higher taxes or decreased services in other areas. The problem is that only focusing on the good to have come from the shelter project so far, and I am glad that we are getting a new shelter and the community support has all been amazing to see, but this doesn’t change the fact that there are some serious troubling parts of the project that exist right now.
But Bobby, criticism divides a community. Why do you have to talk about all of this out in the open rather than just with the key stakeholders within the county? It’s called public affairs! The whole point of the American experiment is to hash these things out publicly. Look, I’m an avid Tennessee Titans fan but I don’t hope the NFL does away with the 31 other teams and just unites all NFL fans behind Ryan Tannahill. Competition breeds greatness and progress.
I love this community, I really do, but man it is terrified, paralyizingly scared still of anything that is seen out of an unspoken, acceptable mainstream. Jeff knows that when he does well, I’m going to give him credit and when the paper faulters, then I’m going to criticize it. He’s a grown up. But I don’t get that feeling from everyone.
I want to end on a high note because it is a holiday week. This love song came on my gym playlist quite randomly because it’s really slow, it was like an algorithm gone awry, but it was perfect for how I feel about this county. If you’ve been following the Concurrent up until this point, or made it this far through this episode, then the song may become relatable in a new perspective It’s Jason Mraz’s I won’t give up. The person in the song is singing to someone who needs help but who isn’t ready to be helped yet but the singer promises to stick by through whatever it takes. The bridge is especially impactful Here we go:
“I don't wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use the tools and gifts
.we got a lot at stake.
I won't give up on us
God knows I'm tough enough, He knows we got a lot to learn and
God knows we're worth it”. ...Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
SIGN OFF - That’s all from the Bobby Winsler Show. Follow the Concurrent on social media for the latest updates and we’ll be back next Tuesday at noon.
If you want to join this conversation, find us on social on the Concurrent Facebook, Twitter, or go to the Concurrent website and post on our discussion boards, have a great Thanksgiving.